The photo is of Meredith Gray, who has been “battling two occurrences of breast cancer during the last five years”. According to the press release issued by Hehr: “The banned photo was of Gray in a fetal position with no sexual body parts exposed. Previously Facebook had removed content from “Naked” Fan Page’s “Breast Cancer Diaries” album. Photos where Gray’s pre-mastectomy nipples were exposed were taken down yet photos of her breasts after surgery with incision scars replacing the nipples remained.” For more about Gray and her journey, visit Naked Documentary Website.
The two women set up the Facebook Fan Page, which has over 2,000 fans, “to bring support, awareness and advocacy to others confronting the disease”. Hehr adds that: “This past June, Facebook issued an apology to breast cancer survivor Sharon Adams of the UK for calling her mastectomy pictures “sexual and abusive”.”
I have just written to Hehr in New York with some questions. As soon as I receive her answers, I’ll post them. For now, here are a few areas to consider.
Facebook has a global reach via the Internet and this raises questions about which law the owner’s of the site have to abide by. I believe that it is the law operating in the territory where the organisation is registered. Plus laws are vastly different around the world when it comes to nudity and indecency. One of the questions may be, how should social networking sites legislate on these types of photographs to take into account the fact that, broadly speaking, cyberspace operates in a heterogenous environment, which can transcend national boundaries? Furthermore, Facebook as part of Web 2.o culture, with its emphasis on audience participation, actually helps foster communities who are willing to challenge, or at least make public, terms deemed as unreasonable, such as Facebook’s.
The following quote, taken from The Times online, 19 September 2007, The Law Explored: indecent exposure, Professor Gary Slapper explores the complexities of English law in plain language illustrates how differently “nipple flashing” is regarded by the laws operating in two similar societies, the UK and the US:
“The momentary exposure of Ms Jackson’s nipple to television viewers watching the 2004 American Super Bowl resulted in an indecency case that recently went to the federal appeal court in Philadelphia… How does English law deal with alleged indecency? Nothing as petty as a fleeting flash of nipple would occupy the British courts in similar circumstances. In the UK, broadcasters must not include anything in their programmes that would offend against “good taste and decency”.”